Saturday, May 1st, was quite a day! I’d been having a few rough trips where I’d lost several big reds, and my heart was just broken! I’m pretty hard on myself, so to lose a good fish always hurts, but to lose 7 in a weeks time, I was starting to question my abilities!
I’d waited at the bait shop for almost an hour that morning, as it was a solo trip and I was in no hurry. I’ve been a live bait angler since I started fishing, so I rarely go without life shrimp, however, I’d just received my order of SaltStrong Slam Shady lures the day before, and I was looking forward to using them again, too. My set ups almost always include one live bait rig with a circle hook, one jighead for live shrimp or artificials, and one solely artificial rig, which is usually a soft plastic on a jighead.
Once the shrimp arrived, I made my way to the launch and casually set up. In my mind, I was going over every fish I’d lost and trying to determine why and how I’d lost them. Did I set the hook? Were the hooks dull? Were the hooks not big enough? Was I losing my mojo? NO! I am NOT losing my mojo!! Positive thoughts!! I was so frustrated with myself, though, and I needed redemption!
All set up and ready to go, I shoved off and determined my destination. The tide was a low, still outgoing tide, and there were plenty of oyster bars exposed. I chose to fish some I hadn’t in quite a while, usually just cruising past them to get to my destination. The water was moving pretty good, and there were deep troughs around the oyster bars, so I decided to put those Slam Shadys to work! I put my trolling motor on low and slowly trolled around the oyster bars, making casts in the deep cuts between them and the shallower flats around them.
It was in one of the deeper cuts that I got my first hook up. Quickly turning off the trolling motor, I was pulled from one oyster bar to the other by what I thought was going to be a beast of a redfish! Keeping my line tight and my rod tip up as much as possible to hopefully avoid being cut off on the oysters, I felt a little anxiety coming on, as I was worried my fish losing streak was about to continue! Positive thoughts!!!
From one oyster bar to the next, and then back to the first again, I started to feel like I was in a pinball game, and I was the little ball being bounced all over the place. Finally, my kayak hit a shallow spot next to one of the bars, and my kayak held still long enough for me to successfully land a 22.5″ redfish. Let me tell you, the sigh of relief and sheer excitement that came over me was as if I’d just landed my first fish ever! It wasn’t the beast I’d thought it would be, but the fight it gave would have made anyone think it was a bull red. I knew I hadn’t lost my mojo. A successful catch, photo & release, and I was right back at it!
There were a ton of mullet swimming around, so I knew there had to be more redfish hanging about, as well. I decided to go to the far side of the oyster bars and drift with the current along side of them while casting. I saw 2 decent size reds swimming around, confirming their presence. No takers on my first drift, so I circled around and made another. As I was nearing the end of the line of oyster bars, I made a cast to the point where the water dropped off as it flowed around.
Fish on! This was definitely a larger fish than the first, and I didn’t want to risk it cutting me off on oysters. I dropped my anchor as fast as possible and fought hard to keep it clear. She took off several times, pulling drag and trying like mad hell to get away, but I held my ground, and tightened my drag just a little. Head thrusts, tail slaps, body rolls and straight runs made for a fight to get the adrenaline pumping and the heart pounding! Another awesome landing and I was holding a beautiful 26.5″ redfish for a photo and successful release.
Noticing several other anglers around me, encroaching upon the oyster bars or just watching me land my reds, I decided to move to another area and let them have this spot. I’d caught 2 beautiful keeper reds and knew there were still more in the area, so I wanted to give someone else a shot at catching them. Off I headed to my next destination, hoping at least one of the other anglers were able to get on the fish at that one.
Tide was still flowing out as I trolled up to the area. A shallow, sandy underwater shoreline, littered with rocks, that fell off into a deep grassy trough was where I’d hoped to find some hungry fish. Several casts gained me nothing. Mullet were jumping a few hundred feet away, in a muddy bottom cove, so I slowly made my way towards it. Before getting too close, I made a long cast. With the wind at my back, my lure made it just past a small cluster of rocks, and must have landed on top of this next fish.
With a vengeance, my line starts screaming though the water and off my reel! First it runs to the left, where there is open space for me to fight it. Suddenly, it launches out of the water, head shaking back and forth trying to throw the hook. Splashing back down, it races to the right again, heading straight for the rocks! A big, slot snook, and we were in a race for the win! She made it to the rocks before I could get her turned away and she cut the line with finesse before a final wave of her tail to say “see ya”. She won that one.
She didn’t come unbuttoned, though, and thats what mattered to me! I was slowly convincing myself that I hadn’t lost my abilities to catch fish, I was just having a few misfortunes the week before. It happens to all of us at some point, right?
I continued floating the area, fan casting in each direction, and was just about to move on when I made a cast to a small point that I knew held a lot of rocks. The water was really shallow, so I was reeling before the lure made its landing just to keep it from snagging bottom. In an instant, my lure stopped dead in its tracks. Thinking I hit a rock, I started to do the little guitar strumming trick to hopefully pop it loose, but then it went slack all on its own. Sweet! Wait!! Still tight. Still on a rock? I begin reeling. Its stuck, alright, but its not on a rock. I felt a small tug back, which must be when the fish realized he was hooked, because thats when it took off like a torpedo! I could tell he wasn’t as big as the others, though he did have a lot of spunk. After a short fight, I’d landed my third keeper redfish at 20.5″. Another photo and release ensuring a happy angler and I’m sure a happy redfish!
The tide was slowing down, getting ready to make its turn to start coming back in. I fished the area for a short while longer, without success, then headed into the next area I’d planned to fish. Mullet were everywhere, so I was fairly certain I would find a redfish or two. Still casting a Slam Shady on a jighead, I drifted slowly, making casts toward the shallow shoreline, pulling it back into deeper water. Halfway down the underwater incline, I found what I was looking for! My line pulled tight and an immediate body roll ensued, followed by a straight run for….the shoreline?! Instead of heading for deeper water, this redfish was headed for the hills! He must’ve gotten a little discombobulated! Didn’t take long for me to land this 23″ redfish, get a quick photo and safely release him back into the deep end of the pool!
I stayed where I was and continued casting, minutes later to be hooked up again. I was still using the Slam Shady paddletail, but I knew that head bobbing feeling at the other end of my line all too well. I fish with a lot of life bait, and have felt the tug of a catfish way more often than I’d like to admit. Here I was, though, using soft plastics, and still catching catfish! Go figure!
With the tide now slack, I decided to just sit for a few and have a snack. My mind took me back to the recently lost fish again, but I wasn’t quite as upset about it anymore. I’d gained back some of my confidence with each fish I’d caught and reminded myself that I really shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I am definitely my own worst critic.
Once the water was moving in, I moved on, too. I checked on a little spot I like when the tide is coming in, but there wasn’t enough water to get back into it yet, so I paddled out and moved on. I had to somewhat backtrack to get to there, but it was well worth it! The wind was blowing me towards the shoreline, and I didn’t want to run the trolling motor while fishing the cove, so I anchored up and began fan casting. About 3 to 4 casts in, pulling my lure up over a small grassy drop off, I feel a hit. Bouncing the lure slowly, I feel it again. Somethings playing, but what? I give the lure a pop, then start reeling slowly, when I feel it yet again. This time it hit hard and then a snook lunged out of the water! There were no obvious rocks nearby, but this little dude was definitely looking for something to cut my line. He spun my kayak around full circle before I was able to tame him enough for a photo shoot! Only coming in at 21″, but one heck of a fun fight.
Moving to a cove a few islands over, I again anchored up and started fan casting. The water was flowing nicely, pushing bait up into the mangroves, so I was casting as close to them as I could, then varying my retrieve. It was a slow retrieve with small occasional pops that got the bite this time, and I nearly lost the rod when it did! I must’ve been day dreaming slightly, because that fish nearly snatched the rod from my hands! Regaining my composure, and my grip on the rod, I found myself in another battle with a nice snook! Tightening my drag and pulling hard to the side was the only thing that kept her from getting into the roots and winning. She tired out quickly after her mad dash, so when I landed her, I put her on the fish grips (yes, I actually used them!) and left her in the water for a minute before getting a photo. A quick measurement put her just a hair over 28″, and made her the big fish of the day! Happily released to swim away!
Deciding that I really wanted to try the spot I’d check on earlier, I started making my way back to it. The tide was flowing strong and the water level was rising quickly. I’d had some good luck there recently in similar conditions. Anchoring up, I decided to put 2 shrimp out on my live bait rods (remember, one with a circle hook, one with a jighead) and let them sit while I relaxed. I’d been using artificials all day, so my arms were getting a bit tired. I always say I now understand why artificial anglers only fish half days!
I must have sat there for all of 10 minutes before I just had to grab the Slam Shady and make a few casts. Nothing had touched either shrimp, and I was getting impatient. Low and behold, my first cast hooked me up with a small trout for my slam! I didn’t lose my mojo!! I could’ve gone home right then and smiled the rest of the day, but being an angler, I just had to make that one last cast. Right back over to where I caught the trout, thinking maybe I could upgrade the size to compete with the reds and snook.
Using the same, slow retrieval with the occasional little pop, that one last cast put me on another snook! Just as fun filled as the first one I’d caught, this one tried to spin my kayak in a circle, as well. Having my two live bait rods out, I couldn’t let that happen without risking a tangled mess of fishing lines, so I had to get him in in a hurry! 20.5″ and a quick photo shoot, and I was more than happy! I had gained my redemption and my confidence!
It was time to go home.
I think I may have used 5 shrimp throughout the day, without even a pinfish eating them. Not one thing wanted shrimp. I did actually hook into and lose 2 more small snook somewhere throughout the day, but who wants to hear about the little ones that got away when there were so many great catches? Every redfish was slot, one snook was just in slot, and the other two that were landed were respectable enough! The little trout was a welcome guest, giving me my slam for the day, and the catfish just adds a touch of humor!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my adventure, and know that not all of them will be this long winded! I thought about splitting up some of the catches for different stories, but when you have this good of a day, you want to tell it all together!
Please feel free to share this story with others who may enjoy it, and I hope you’ll join me again on my next kayak fishing adventure! Until then, and as always, Tight Lines & Good Times, Y’all! Catch em up!